Cypress knees are often used to create handcrafted wood art, accessories and furnishings. Cypress knees, which resemble termite mounds, are growths stemming from the horizontal roots of bald cypress trees that grow in the swamps of the southeastern United States. A wood carver named Thomas Gaskins created a method of removing the outer bark of the cypress knees, which makes them smooth enough to use in art and furnishings. The process involves boiling and drying the knees, which reveals the soft texture and delicate finish of the cypress wood.
Rinse and scrub the cypress root in clean water.
Fill a large stock pot with water. Use a stock pot designed to hold large lobsters. Submerge the cypress knee, base end up, in the water, and set the pot on an outdoor gas burner.
Set bricks on top of the cypress knee to hold it under the water. Cover the pot with a lid, and bring the water to a boil.
Boil the cypress knee 30 minutes. Keep the water at a rolling boil.
Put on heat-resistant gloves. Remove the pot lid. Remove the brick.
Pull the cypress knee out of the water with large, sturdy tongs. If the bark has loosened, move the cypress knee to a clean surface. If the bark still looks firmly attached, continue to boil the knee. Check every five to 10 minutes to see if the bark has loosened. When it is ready, remove it from the pot, and set it on a clean, dry surface.
Pull the bark up from the base of the knee. Slowly peel the bark away, working from the base to the tip.
Rinse the peeled cypress knee in cold water. Drill several holes in the knee to allow air circulation, and set the knee in the sun to dry and tan. It may take about three days for the knee to dry, and it may take up to a year for the cypress knee to turn to a honey-tan color from the sun.